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Perth Silver Brass Band
The mid to late nineteenth century saw the formation of a number of brass bands in Perth, a report in the Perthshire Advertiser of 1947 states that "Perth Silver Band is the last of five bands which once existed in the city". Research has revealed the existence of three bands from this period. Perth Masonic Band formed in 1856, Perth Brass Band which originated in 1861/1862 and Pullars Band which was created in 1881.
Which of these bands, if any, eventually became Perth Silver Band is somewhat difficult to determine given the differing reports available. An article in the Perthshire Advertiser from 1938 claims to document the history of the band and using the testimony of a Mr. William McNab, a member whose connection with the band was said to have begun in the 1880's, places the band's formation at about 1864. This ties in with the 1862 report from the Perthshire Courier which describes the beginnings of a Perth Brass Band although it states that "the instruments shall be the property of the public". This egalitarian declaration is somewhat at odds with the 1938 history which highlights a unique characteristic of the band when it says "every intending bandsman became a Freemason, and it was the only combination in Scotland in which the instrumentalists were all members of the Craft". The masonic connection also appears in the 1949 report although this is in reference to Perth Masonic Band's formation in 1856.
Another version of the band's origins comes in a previous history produced by the band in 1980 which appeared in the Perthshire Advertiser. This describes the band's ancestry beginning with the Pullars Band which was formed as a works band for the local, family-run, dying and drycleaning organisation. The owners of Pullars appeared to have been keen to support their workforce in their social activities as is described by Albert Harding in his history of the company,"Pullars of Perth" when he states that "(Robert Pullar)..subsidised various clubs - bowling, swimming, cricket, football and angling - and even bought musical instruments for a works band". Confirmation of this is given in the Perthshire Constitutional from Wednesday,second of March, 1881 where it is declared that "last night, Messrs. PULLAR formally handed over a splendid set of musical instruments valued at £300, to their employees for the purpose of forming a band to be called Pullars Band".
Given this mixture of information, it is difficult to pinpoint the definitive beginnings of the band from these three groups although it would be logical to assume that a degree of collaboration and/or merging would have occurred between the various bands throughout their lifetimes. It may also be the case that an original Perth Silver Band was a fourth band from this time as is suggested in the 1938 article.
This report goes on to list some momentous moments from this period including performing at a two day fund raising bazaar for a bridge at Caputh, playing at the laying of the foundation stone for municipal buildings in Glasgow and a similar event,in 1885, for Perth Swimming Baths.
A broader consenus is reached regarding the band's next stage which is contained in the 1938 article and the band's own 1980 report. Both sources agree that that a name change to Perth Trades Band / Perth Trades Silver Band occurred. The 1980 version maintains that this took place during the First World War, a fact which could also be interpreted from the 1938 report. The latter goes into more detail by saying that the name change occurred prior to 1901. It then goes on to describe another name change in 1901 to the 4th Volunteer Black Watch Band. The name reverted to Perth Trades Band when the Volunteers merged with the 6th Territorial Battalion with a final change (revertion?) to Perth Silver Band occurring in 1930 according to the 1980 article. This date is contradicted by the first piece of documentary evidence naming Perth Silver Band. An obituary from 1928 for Mr. Robert K. Macfarlane, a conductor with Perth Trades Band, mentions that Perth Silver Band led the cortege although confusingly another very similar obituary states that it was actually Perth Trades Band who played.
The band continued playing during the Second World War under the leadership of William Langlands. The family's association continued in later years with Mr. Langlands son and grandson also being members of the reformed band post-1972. A collection of material saved by Mr. Langlands can be viewed here.
Following the death of the musical director, John L. Hamilton in 1958, the band stopped playing due to a lack of support. The band instruments were presented to to the local Education Department.
1972 to Present Day
The band was reformed in 1972 with 12 members after a music teacher from Perth Academy advertised for players. As the band's instruments had been presented to the local Education Department when the band was dissolved 14 years previously, a concerted fund raising effort was required to provide a new set of instruments.
The band continued to grow throughout the 1970's and was able to claim a membership of around 30 members in 1980.
A significant date in the band's calendar around this time was the production of a Christmas charity concert in conjunction with other artistes. 1978 saw the band join forces with Perth Amateur Operatic Society in Perth City Hall. In 1979, the venue was St. Ninians Cathedral Hall with the Cathedral Opera Group and 1980 saw a return to the City hall for the "Stars on Sunday" concert with a star studded cast including local luminary, Walter Carr.
Of late, the Band has suffered a drop in membership meaning that competing has not been a viable proposition. The band last participated in the fourth section of the Scottish Amateur Brass Band Association (S.A.B.B.A) Championships in 1995.
In 1996, the band received a welcome boost when a grant from the National Lottery was awarded. This allowed for the purchase of a set of uniforms and some new instruments.
It was the end of an era in January 2000 when the RSAS clubRSAS Club in St. Leonards Bank, the long time home of the Band, closed. The Band then rehearsed in the Letham Bowling Club for a few months until the beginning of the bowling season forced another move to the Salvation Army Hall in King Edwards Street. The imminent demolition of this building resulted in a relocation in November 2000 to the St. Andrews Church in Atholl Street courtesy of the YMCA.
This search for a home was mirrored in 1947 when the band was seeking new premises after the then Exchange Bar was to be converted to a club by the British Legion. The situation was deemed to be so serious that disbandment was considered a distinct possibility unless a solution was found. A band spokesman, Mr. William McNab, looked to the Town Council for assistance and suggested one of the many condemned houses in the area as suitable for conversion to a permanent band hall. He went on to say, in a statement that could be considered just as true over fifty years later, that "Any Gentleman willing to help and take them out of this terrible hardship, will be doing a great service to the Bandsmen and to the citizens of Perth."
The band continues today with players drawn from both Perth and the surrounding regions and performs a varied calendar of engagements throughout Perth and its environs.